BEHIND THE BENCH: WHAT’S NEXT?

Robin Brownlee
May 18 2012 03:57PM

A day after the Edmonton Oilers tied the can to Tom Renney, I'm still convinced Brent Sutter is the leading candidate to replace him as head coach. Being the "leading candidate" doesn't, however, necessarily translate to Sutter being a slam-dunk.

I dubbed Sutter's appointment as head coach of Team Canada for the World Championships an audition for the Oiler job – timing and the fact Kevin Lowe and Steve Tambellini were and are involved with Canada's front office makes made that pretty obvious – and I still believe it was essentially that.

Lowe and Tambellini got a front-row seat at the WC and a close-up look at Sutter's style and substance, albeit a brief one. That, unless you are of the mind Sutter isn't being considered for the Edmonton job at all, is going to have an effect on the decision they make about Renney's successor.

Sutter and Lowe go back a long way. I've got no doubt Lowe holds Sutter in high regard as a competitor and a coach. While Sutter's latest gig might have served to reinforce the opinion of Sutter that Lowe and Tambellini had going into the tournament, there is a flipside.

With Canada's performance, capped by a 4-3 loss to Slovakia, far from overwhelming, I'm wondering if Lowe and Tambellini saw any warts or shortcomings in Sutter's approach – that's a fair question when Team Canada doesn't get into the medal round at any tournament.

If Lowe and Tambellini did come away from the WC tournament with questions or impressions they didn't have going in based on what they saw first-hand, that's not a bad thing. Getting more information never is. That's especially true with this hire. Tambellini and Lowe have to get it right.

AND . . .

So, what of associate coach Ralph Krueger and assistants Kelly Buchberger and Steve Smith? Convention has it that a new head coach gets to pick his staff, but I don't see all three being shown the door.

I actually see two of the three sticking around on the staff with the new coach, and my best guess is Buchberger and Smith will retain their positions when training camp begins under Sutter, or whoever gets the job. Some fans believe Krueger should get some consideration as a replacement for Renney, and I think he will. I know Krueger, who did some fill-in work running the bench when Renney was ailing, has some support in the room.

Allowing for that, the likeliest scenario is Krueger ends up back in Europe and Smith and Buchberger stay on, leaving the new head coach to fill one slot on the staff with a hand-picked assistant. Smith did solid work in his first year here. Buchberger has become something of a fixture as sort of a resident assistant and provides some continuity.

Listen to Robin Brownlee Wednesdays and Thursdays from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. on the Jason Gregor Show on TEAM 1260.

Aceb4a1816f5fa09879a023b07d1a9b4
A sports writer since 1983, including stints at The Edmonton Journal and The Sun 1989-2007, I happily co-host the Jason Gregor Show on TSN 1260 twice a week and write when so inclined. Have the best damn lawn on the internet. Most important, I am Sam's dad. Follow me on Twitter at Robin_Brownlee. Or don't.
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#1 stealthwise
May 19 2012, 09:12AM
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The next coach should be Dallas Eakens.

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#2 Johnny
May 18 2012, 12:17PM
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Uh, no.

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#3 Oiler Country
May 18 2012, 12:20PM
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Wish I could delete my comment.

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#4 Toro
May 18 2012, 12:21PM
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What about the Barons coach becoming the oilers new head coach? , I'm not too thrilled bout Sutter being the next coach mostly because of his stint in Cowtown lol

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#5 Johnny
May 18 2012, 12:23PM
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Alright then, I am going to be the fist to say that I don't think it was that big of a deal that Renney didn't find out on the way back to the dressing room after the final buzzer of game 82 that he wouldn't be returning. There area a lot of players each year that arein limbo as to whether or not they are going to have employment. And guess what...some of them are good guys too.

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#6 Toro
May 18 2012, 12:26PM
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Johnny wrote:

Alright then, I am going to be the fist to say that I don't think it was that big of a deal that Renney didn't find out on the way back to the dressing room after the final buzzer of game 82 that he wouldn't be returning. There area a lot of players each year that arein limbo as to whether or not they are going to have employment. And guess what...some of them are good guys too.

Johnny? La hanta esta ma loca, wtf!

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I'm getting sick of this whole keeping guys on, just leaves another excuse down the road. If you want to have Bucky/Smith as coaches make it off ice coaches. That is unless the new coach really likes Smith/Bucky.

I don't want to hear next year that the reason our PK sucked is because Sutter kept a guy around that he didn't want and they had different opinions.

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#8 Spartacus
May 18 2012, 12:31PM
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Has Smith done a good job? Are we crediting Smith with Petry's emergence? Seems fair, but if you're going to change the coaching staff, change the frickin' coaching staff.

The powerplay saw real improvement, does credit for that go to Krueger? Or to increased talent on the powerplay, specifically RNH & Hall?

Buchberger, though? The penalty kill improved, but I don't know that I've seen anything from Buchberger that says he deserves to keep his position indefinitely.

They changed the entire medical/equipment staff, including Kevin Lowe's brother; can't we cut ties with the entire coaching staff, as well?

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@ Oil country

A lot of coaches that don't have jobs lost them because they lost the team. It's not uncommon for this to happen. Dave Tippett lost teams in the past, Ken Hitchcock lost teams, but they were both praised before they played the LA kings.

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#10 The Bob
May 18 2012, 12:33PM
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I am not in favor of picking up Cowtown's sloppy seconds.

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#11 Spartacus
May 18 2012, 12:35PM
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@ The Bob

Haha... Avery's legacy lives on.

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#12 Westcoastoil
May 18 2012, 12:36PM
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I really, really hope they don't hire Sutter. Not a fan of his style and he doesn't strike me a guy players will want to play under for a long time which will only continue the coaching carousel.

Personally I'd like to see MacT back but there's likely too much fan baggage for that.

I agree that more information is always better - let's see how Nelson handles OKC the rest of the way. It would be a shame to let a good prospect they've groomed be lost to another organization. Lowe/Tambellin wouldn't let that happen would they?

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#13 Senator Theo
May 18 2012, 12:38PM
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Who better to beat Calgary with than a coach who knows them inside and out? Also, it would feel pretty good to succeed with a coach that Calgary tossed aside.

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#14 crobar
May 18 2012, 12:42PM
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they should take a run at dallas eakins.....

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#15 Sean17
May 18 2012, 12:48PM
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Sutter does nothing for me. I live in Red Deer, stopped going to Rebels games because he made them so boring. He seems like a bit of a dick. So, he won a Memorial Cup. Big whoop, he coached All-Star junior teams to gold. So did Pat Quinn.

What has he done lately? Not make the playoffs with the Flamers and lose at the Worlds.

What young players in Calgary has he developed? None.

What Lord of the Rings character does he look like? Gollum.

3 Strikes.

I will admit he would probably be a quick fix to get to the playoffs next year, but he is not a long term solution.

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Who has CGY had to develop? Iginla and Jokinen?

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#17 The Farmer
May 18 2012, 12:51PM
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I am excited for whoever they hire. We keep hearing all this stuff about poor Renney, I am sure he is a very nice man, and nobody wants to see someone out of work. However, he was making seven figures to make a team finish last, last, and second last. (Associate for first) The veterans were checking out again, and there seemed to be no accountability. I don't know who will do better, but it's unlikely they will do worse.

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#18 Snowdropper
May 18 2012, 12:55PM
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Cripes! That photo of Sutter is downright terrifying. I'm gonna have nightmares for sure.

I've heard some arguments that Sutter might be good because of his team defence style, but there are other coaches out there who can employ a similar defence system without sucking the life out of the game.

I do hope, whatever the route the management chooses to go in terms of coaching, they get it sorted sooner rather than later. There are a lot of coaching jobs opening up, and all the good ones may be gone if we don't step up.

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#19 Sean17
May 18 2012, 12:57PM
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BTW, Hejduk 36 years old just signed for $2 million - one-year. Comparison to Smyth:

Smyth DOB: Feb 21 1976 Career: GP:1151 G:374 A:432 Tot:806

Hejduk DOB: Feb 14 1976 Career: GP:991 G:371 A:423 Tot:794

And Smyth wants how much?

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#20 jr_christ
May 18 2012, 01:08PM
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Anyone know who is likely considered the top draft pick for 2013?

Just wondering what team I should be closely following outside of the Oilers this season...

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#21 Lexi
May 18 2012, 01:08PM
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One thing I noticed is that Johny Oduya had by far his best two years under Sutter in NJ. If we bring in Sutter is he a UFA that would then come here and be a legit top 4 Dman? He played third most minutes on Chicago in the playoffs.

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#22 nathan
May 18 2012, 01:12PM
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Stauffer made a big deal describing Renney sitting on the bench alone before the final game. If I had to make one guess I'd go with both sides figured he was gone, because they offered a short extension where Lowebellini picked his assistant.

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#23 Dog Train
May 18 2012, 01:12PM
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I don't think his international experience should matter too much. As much offensive talent as the Oilers are collectin, it still pales in comparison to the loaded teams that Hockey Canada puts together. And I wouldn't put much stock into the early exit, Canada still went 6-2 and looked as sharp as they have in a while at the WHC.

My main concern would be his resume at the NHL level. That said, I believe that he got Calgary to overachieve last season. He's worked well with younger players before and he did a nice job with the veterans in Calgary last season. I don't mind him being a candidate but I just don't see him as a clear upgrade over Renney.

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#24 Dman09
May 18 2012, 01:16PM
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If the WHC was a tryout of sorts for Sutter wouldn't that mean he failed????? Oh right yup tambo and company will totally sign him.

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#25 Fatboys796
May 18 2012, 01:25PM
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@Sean17

Sorry Sean17

He won a Memorial Cup, pretty decent, how many coaches can you look at that have done it.

He hasn't made the playoffs with the Flames because he had no one in that organization to play for him, they are all 90yr olds.

He lost at the Worlds because he "let them play," I don't know about you but its hard to get a system going when you only are there for 3wks to play.

He hasn't developed any players in Calgary because they have no one in the system. The only exceptions are Brodie and Sven Bartschi. They traded all their assets away to only get the 9th or 10th place the last couple years.

Homework is what you need to do good sir....that is all.

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#26 Quicksilver ballet
May 18 2012, 01:34PM
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Have to wonder what the future leader of this hockey club thinks of all this BS. Is this just incompetence confirmed, or business as usual as far as Taylor Hall is concerned.

Hate to see Edmonton lose one or some of the 3 or 4 kids Oiler fans have suffered greatly for going on 5 yrs now. By this time next summer, Oiler faithful types should have their answer.

Now would be a good time to show up with some of those leadership skills Mr. Katz.

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#27 SiD
May 18 2012, 01:35PM
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For me it seems Tambo is trying to set in a locked direction as far as coaching scheme now. Renney let the kids "run free" his first year then instituted a game plan where he thought the kids could succeed most by sheltering minutes and giving them the best opportunities possible. I figure Tambo thought it was to sporadic and that's what finally lead to his decision and what will lead to a hiring like Sutter I don't agree with it but it seems that's how it is.

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#28 Truth
May 18 2012, 01:40PM
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Is all of this talk of Sutter being a horrible choice based solely on him being an ex-Flame coach?

Is it because he is Sutter and the whole "Sather not picking them so they will never play in Edmonton thing"?

If none of the above, what is the reason? His statistics show he is a much better coach than Tom Renney and the Flames are a horrible team with a good goalie. Everybody knows that including him, hence the resignation. From what I understand Sutter pretty much told Feaster to go about a rebuild like Edmonton or else he is out of there. He is out of there.

I am not advocating Sutter be the next coach, but so much hate towards him I would like to know why.

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#29 etownman
May 18 2012, 01:43PM
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I like the idea of Sutter as head coach of the Oilers! He took the job as coach of the Devils & everybody predicted the Devils were starting to fade & Sutter's winning percentage with that team was great, over 60% I believe! He never had a losing season with the Flames even though they're not a good team with aging players! His coaching at the junior level & junior international is well known & he has been very successful! I think the only reason he still isn't in cowtown is because the Flames are misguided on doing a rebuild & Ignila & Kiprusoff can't carry the team like they have.

Sutter is an excellent coach & I hope they hire him!

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#30 Raine
May 18 2012, 01:43PM
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It was said Brent Sutter being the coach for the Worlds was already a done deal prior to his release from Calgary. So that being an audition isn't necessarily true when, as far as Lowe knew, Sutter was the coach for the Calgary Flames.

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#31 HOFFFF
May 18 2012, 01:44PM
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Toro, that was damn funny! Beer came out my nose!

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#32 Oilcruzer
May 18 2012, 01:56PM
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Hire Bucky Struds and Smythie as Assistant Coaches. Make them pick the head coach.

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#33 Dman09
May 18 2012, 02:15PM
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SiD wrote:

For me it seems Tambo is trying to set in a locked direction as far as coaching scheme now. Renney let the kids "run free" his first year then instituted a game plan where he thought the kids could succeed most by sheltering minutes and giving them the best opportunities possible. I figure Tambo thought it was to sporadic and that's what finally lead to his decision and what will lead to a hiring like Sutter I don't agree with it but it seems that's how it is.

I disagree, I think this decision was created because of the Veterans on the team, Tambo was likely looking for enough character out of them to lead the way themselves which didn't happen. The kids were far better and made significant improvements. I don't think there is a single vet that even stayed on par. This forced Tambo to look for someone that can push the vets hard as well as develope the young guys. I think Renny is great with the young guys and I think his place is actually as an NHL assistant or a head coach in the AHL. His best qualities are deveopling young players.

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#34 crobar
May 18 2012, 02:22PM
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Lexi wrote:

One thing I noticed is that Johny Oduya had by far his best two years under Sutter in NJ. If we bring in Sutter is he a UFA that would then come here and be a legit top 4 Dman? He played third most minutes on Chicago in the playoffs.

i like oduya

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#36 Senator Theo
May 18 2012, 03:21PM
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crobar wrote:

i like oduya

o-do-ya?

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#37 Mitch
May 18 2012, 03:33PM
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I think Sutter is the next coach, I would be shocked if he is not. There is many good coaches available or might become available.

What I would look for in a coach is someone who can handle the pressure of Edmonton, teach young guys, get the absoulute best out of veteran players, handle ego's of young star players. But most importantly help develope a culture that badly is missing. I want a coach that has everyones attention, that isn't scared to ruffle a few feathers.

Edmonton's culture in the last 6 yrs has taken a real bad hit. Players don't care enough about the city, there is no pride in being a oiler. That was there in the 80's why because Sather cared about every single thing that had to do with the representation of being a Oiler.

It's up to the owner, the managers, the coach and players to turn this around.

Brent Sutter has all the right arrows pointing his way to fix what is broke. From how he runs his Jr team, to how he has coached Canadian teams.

Winning matters ST doesn't get another shot at this.

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#38 Lofty
May 18 2012, 03:46PM
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Let's not forget that Renny has been cashing paychecks since the season ended while waiting for word from managment. No need to rush a decision while you still have the coach under contract.

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#39 dawgbone98
May 18 2012, 03:50PM
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@Sean17 when it comes down to these over 35 contracts, it's very much a what have you done for me lately.

Hejduk is coming off a 14 goal 37 point season, that hurts his negotiating position quite a bit.

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#40 Dman09
May 18 2012, 03:57PM
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dawgbone98 wrote:

@Sean17 when it comes down to these over 35 contracts, it's very much a what have you done for me lately.

Hejduk is coming off a 14 goal 37 point season, that hurts his negotiating position quite a bit.

Personally if I was a GM I wouldn't want to sign anyone over 34 to more than one year contracts. The risks are just too high and at that point you really don't know what you will get from year to year.

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#41 Weasel Wellwood
May 18 2012, 04:00PM
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etownman wrote:

I like the idea of Sutter as head coach of the Oilers! He took the job as coach of the Devils & everybody predicted the Devils were starting to fade & Sutter's winning percentage with that team was great, over 60% I believe! He never had a losing season with the Flames even though they're not a good team with aging players! His coaching at the junior level & junior international is well known & he has been very successful! I think the only reason he still isn't in cowtown is because the Flames are misguided on doing a rebuild & Ignila & Kiprusoff can't carry the team like they have.

Sutter is an excellent coach & I hope they hire him!

I'm with you, dude. I would add only that Sutter has been a pretty darn good teacher of young players wherever he's been. (Calgary being the exception, they had very few young players.)

Sutter would be an extremely good hire.

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#42 BigE91
May 18 2012, 04:14PM
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dawgbone98 wrote:

@Sean17 when it comes down to these over 35 contracts, it's very much a what have you done for me lately.

Hejduk is coming off a 14 goal 37 point season, that hurts his negotiating position quite a bit.

19-27-46 for Smyth how much more does 9 extra points warrant. 2.5 million is tops. If he loves the team as much as everyone believes and wants to be here the writing is on the wall.

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#43 madjam
May 18 2012, 04:22PM
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Would Sutter be that desperate for a job here ? Can't see him taking the job with the core we have .

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#45 Sliderule
May 18 2012, 05:07PM
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I watched Sutter play in junior and the NHL and he is a fierce competitor.

In Calgary unlike Renney he played his horses and overachieved with that roster.Look at his record against the oilers.

Get over the Calgary thing he is from central Alberta.

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#46 Slats
May 18 2012, 05:10PM
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@madjam

No core?? Cmon "happyjelly" could be the best young core in hockey. 3 (14,4,93) of these Oilers will be go-to guys for Olympics in 2014. Lay off the melba toast dude.

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#47 Slats
May 18 2012, 05:17PM
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@Sliderule

Agreed.

It's BCA and BPA for the Oilers. Sutter knows defence - something the Oilers lacked a lot of given the # of one goal games they lost this year. And he coaches youth. Factor those two with he has the intensity that just might push the vets and show the kids what it takes and you could have the perfect storm.

I bet it is the best possible fit for him too.

As for the Assistant Coaches what we have is fine but it I was the Oilers I would throw some money at Sean Burke for the goalie coach - Brownlee are the Oilers prohibited from talking to assistants or do they need permission like others?

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#48 Mac962
May 18 2012, 06:55PM
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With all the Sutters the flames have had over the years.. Wouldnt it be nice... Brent is a good coach..forget the last name.

Go Brent ! Welcome to a real team... We will rise with you.

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#49 admiralmark
May 18 2012, 07:54PM
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Sutter had 2 great "regular" seasons as coach in NJ ending in early playoff exits. Couple seasons in Calgary not making the playoffs. And we are firing Renney to bring him in exactly why?! Asinine.. but sooooo Tambi.

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#50 longbottom/P.Biglow
May 18 2012, 08:25PM
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@Johnny I am under the impression that it took time because there was a split on Renney. Tambellinni in my eyes wanted him back and Lowe and Katz said there had to be accountability for finishing 30th then 29th. Tambellinni said after Quinn was removed when the Oilers came last after 1 season that there had to be accountability on the team.

In My Honest Opinion I see the passion Lowe has for the team sneaking in and starting to tell Tambellinni that is enough there has to be improvement to the Play-offs or........

Hence why Tambellinni said at his presser that they were entering the next phase.

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